It’s noon on National Day in Beijing and I’m sitting on a rock next to a path up a hill when a French family passes. I make eye contact with the father and he says, “Bonjour.” I say, “I wish I spoke French” and he smiles, understanding. His family is fat and beautiful. Later, a Chinese family walks by. The daughter skips off the trail to have a piss. The mother and father wait, out of breath. When she returns they carry on. Another family walks by and the father looks French, so I say, “Bonjour” and he says, “Hi there, what part of France do you come from?” I shift my weight. “Lille,” I say in a two-cent French accent. “In ze North.” The wife, the entirety of her wardrobe an egg-yolk yellow, smiles, not understanding. The daughter has a particular Pakipsian kind of glamour that is unattractive in this rarest of Beijing sunshine. I say, “I hope you enjoy Beijing, ze weather is beautiful today, no?” They continue up the hill, and I am no longer a Frenchman in Beijing.
Bio: Luke Wander hails from the minimalist hamlet of Fairview, North Carolina, from where he has launched himself into chaos, into smog, into China, where he now serves as the Deputy Dean of the International Department at the Jiaxing 21st Century Foreign Language School. http://shoulddoes.com
Synopsis: As an American teaching Canadian history in China, culture clashes are an inevitable part of my daily life, as are culture crunches, culture bumps, culture hunches, and culture dumps. Mostly, they come in the form of language, but sometimes they appear in clothes, friendships, phone calls, platefuls of food, and haircuts. This culture clash in particular was memorable because of how much, at the time, I was craving France. Also, I had a pencil and a notepad. That helped.